Friday, December 25, 2015

The Leftover Shepherd

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off.
What if one stayed? After all, what kind of shepherds would they be if they left their flocks untended in the middle of the night? Not good shepherds, that's for dang sure. Good shepherds stay. Didn't David, the future king of the Jews, get left behind to tend the sheep when good news came to town?

So here's what I'm thinking: X - 1 shepherds ran off, in the wake of the heavenly host, to welcome the Son of God to the world. One shepherd stuck around. What must he have been thinking?

He was probably the youngest, the shepherd of no account. He probably knew that to be the case, as much because the other shepherds would regularly remind him as because the culture of the day was accustomed to pecking orders. There would have been no question of who got stuck with the sheep while the others got face time with Messiah.

That doesn't mean that this good shepherd of no account resented his position or his fellow shepherds or even the heavenly host that left him with the work of multiple men. It does mean he made a sacrifice of himself, missing out on the big good news in order to do his little good work.

I imagine that one of the host of angels stayed behind too. Because angels are a little like shepherds, if you think about it. But there's more: Here, on this lonely field at night, far removed from the shaking of history somewhere in Bethlehem - here was something worth seeing. To tend the sheep so that others may fall at the feet of the God of all mercy is a sacrifice of the highest order, the kind of thing that angels long to look on.

I imagine that lone shepherd, left alone by his friends in the stark silence of a holy night, might actually, finally, feel seen by the God who sees.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

You're Welcome, Internet: Ten Years of Loud Time

Today marks my tenth anniversary posting to this blog. I haven't gone to great lengths to publicize it or promote it; I've just posted here and there and shared the links through whatever means were available to me at the time. In the beginning I didn't have Facebook or Twitter or any social media presence, apart from my work blog. Now I don't have a work blog, and in fact blogs may well have run their course. I, of course, blog on, undeterred.

I may, over the course of the next year, repost some of my favorites from the past decade, and when I do you may assume that I've been too lazy to write something new. In any case, I've enjoyed keeping this log of my interactions with books, films, music, and people for ten years. If you've read any of my nearly eight hundred posts, then thanks; if you've commented, God bless you. If you've shared my posts with other people, is there anything I can do for you?

Here's the text of my first post. Enjoy!


Long Overdue

It's about time I blogged privately. I've been designated blogger for InterVarsity Press, where I work as an editor, for three years now: I post to Strangely Dim weekly. But I've been wanting to do my own thing, unconstrained by the needs of the press. So here I go.

I've liked the idea of Loud Time for a Long Time. I come from a subculture that puts a lot of emphasis on the Quiet Time as the critical ingredient for spiritual growth. That's all well and good, except that you can only effectively be quiet in isolation, and while occasional isolation is a good thing, most of life is lived in real time with real people.

Enter Loud Time! In this blog I'll blather away about virtually anything, but my chief aim is to borrow wisdom from others and extend both the range and the depth of my relationships. If Loud Time is anything, it is a conviction that God abides with us even when we are not alone--which is perhaps a novel concept--and even when we are not quiet--which is perhaps a controversial subject. We grow together, which to my mind is how God intended it.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

A Lament for Eric Garner

A year ago today, a grand jury declined to indict a police officer for his role in the death of Eric Garner in New York. In his book Prophetic Lament, theologian Soong-Chan Rah wrote a prayer-poem, inspired by Lamentations 5, on behalf of Garner and Michael Brown and suffering black communities throughout the United States. It's excerpted here.

Remember, Lord, what happened
to Michael Brown and Eric Garner;
look, and see the disgraceful way they treated their bodies.
Our inheritance of the image of God in every human being
has been co-opted and denied by others.
The children of Eric Garner have become fatherless,
widowed mothers grieve their dead children.
We must scrap for our basic human rights;
our freedom and our liberty has a great price.
Corrupt officers and officials pursue us and are at our heels;
we are weary and find no rest.
We submitted to uncaring government agencies
and to big business
to get enough bread.
Our ancestors sinned the great sin of instituting slavery;
they are no more - but we bear their shame.
The system of slavery and institutionalized racism
ruled over us,
and there is no one to free us from their hands.
We get our bread at the risk of our lives
because of the guns on the streets.
Michael Brown's skin is hot as an oven
as his body lay out in the blazing sun.
Women have been violated throughout our nation's history;
black women raped by white slave owners on the plantations.
Noble black men have been hung, lynched and gunned down;
elders and spokesmen are shown no respect.
Young men can't find work because of unjustly applied laws;
boys stagger under the expectation that their lives
are destined for jail. . . .
Woe to us, for we have sinned!

Taken from Prophetic Lament by Soong-Chan Rah. Copyright (c) 2015 by Soong-Chan Rah. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426.

Both Inspiration and Cautionary Tale: Excerpts from Middling

What follows is an excerpt from the Winter 2021 edition of Middling, my quarterly newsletter on music, books, work, and getting older. I'...